Model Clouds over Oceans as Seen from Space: Comparison with HIRS/2 and MSU Radiances

F. Chevallier European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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P. Bauer European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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G. Kelly European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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C. Jakob European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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T. McNally European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Radiation observations are a key element in the evaluation of the 40-yr reanalysis at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. This paper uses the High-Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder/2 (HIRS/2) and Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) observations on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, to assess the characteristics of the cloud fields produced by the forecasting system over midlatitude and tropical oceans. Infrared and microwave radiation have different sensitivities to clouds and are therefore complementary. Observed and model-generated radiances, as well as HIRS/2-derived cloud parameters, are compared.

The model clouds are shown to be well distributed, with realistic seasonal cycles. However, deficiencies are identified and discussed: the cloud radiative impact may be too low in the midlatitudes, the frequency of occurrence of high clouds is overestimated in the intertropical convergence zone, and the stratocumulus off the west coast of the continents is underestimated. The methods described here provide a framework for assessing the impact of forthcoming improvements to the cloud scheme.

Corresponding author address: F. Chevallier, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Park, Reading, Berkshire RG29AX, United Kingdom. Email: f.chevallier@ecmwf.int

Abstract

Radiation observations are a key element in the evaluation of the 40-yr reanalysis at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. This paper uses the High-Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder/2 (HIRS/2) and Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) observations on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, to assess the characteristics of the cloud fields produced by the forecasting system over midlatitude and tropical oceans. Infrared and microwave radiation have different sensitivities to clouds and are therefore complementary. Observed and model-generated radiances, as well as HIRS/2-derived cloud parameters, are compared.

The model clouds are shown to be well distributed, with realistic seasonal cycles. However, deficiencies are identified and discussed: the cloud radiative impact may be too low in the midlatitudes, the frequency of occurrence of high clouds is overestimated in the intertropical convergence zone, and the stratocumulus off the west coast of the continents is underestimated. The methods described here provide a framework for assessing the impact of forthcoming improvements to the cloud scheme.

Corresponding author address: F. Chevallier, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Park, Reading, Berkshire RG29AX, United Kingdom. Email: f.chevallier@ecmwf.int

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